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Labor Values Must Guide Reforming Victorian Labor

Andrew Giles MP & Susie Byers

Today the administrators of Victorian Labor present their initial report to the Party’s National Executive.

Given revelations of branch-stacking and abuse, we don’t expect this to be easy reading for anyone who cares about Victorian Labor.

But we must engage with this, to understand what happened and how we can guard against it in the future.

An audit of membership is underway, and this will demonstrate the scale of the challenge we must confront, to restore trust and confidence in the workings of our Party.

But we must also look forward, and focus on a framework for rebuilding and reforming Victorian Labor. So that it can be as good as it needs to be.

We have set out some principles that are intended to help guide debate. They are of course not a prescription, but a series of values that we believe are widely shared, and encapsulate what we should be striving for.

All of us. We can’t leave this work to Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin alone.

We believe that Victorian Labor should be:

A party of integrity, which lives its values and recognises its responsibilities to all those people who depend on Labor governments.

The Labor Party isn’t a dinner party.

We exist to secure a better society. So what happens inside the ALP really matters, it affects everyone.

This means our internal processes must at the very least meet the standards we expect in the wider community.

True believers should have no reason to doubt that their Party is always working for them, and never being misused by selfish, much less corrupt individuals.

We must be ethical in all that we do, and resolute in safeguarding our integrity.

A party that is open, inclusive and transparent.

Labor is a democratic movement of change, not a secret society - so we must stop behaving like one.

It’s easier to find out what’s happening in UK Labour than the Victorian Party - this is ridiculous.

Members can only exercise meaningful power in the party if information is available and decisions are made transparently. Power must be exercised in the open – and must be contestable.

We can only empower members by ensuring they have access to information. They deserve that, and we need it.

A party that values and encourages activism, ideas and debate, through prioritising membership development and engagement.

Reforming the Party must mean empowering its membership.

What was most shocking about the revelations in 60 minutes and The Age was the total lack of interest in politics that was shown.

This demonstrates a ‘whatever it takes’ culture taken to a soulless extreme.

A culture we have to change. Members should be valued for their ideas and energy, not their votes.

Remember: so many great social changes originated in fierce debates within the Party. From resisting conscription to decriminalising abortion, Victorian Labor has been the place where progressive gathered together to discuss how to secure a fairer future.

This must continue.

We can show our commitment to our members through our budget. We show that we are really a membership-led organisation through seriously investing in membership development, training and resourcing.

A party that recognises that different people bring different interests, priorities and skills to their involvement.

Not everyone joins the Party for the same reason.

Few, we suspect, join to vote in internal elections!

All want Labor to succeed, and all want to contribute to this success.

Our challenge is to recognise and value this, and seek to find ways to harness the extraordinary talents of our membership to contribute in ways that they find fulfilling and which make a difference.

We could start by simply asking members what they’d like to do.

A party that has a deep connection with unions and their members.

The clue is in the name: we are the Labor Party. The spelling doesn’t change the fact that we are the political voice of organised labour in Australia.

This is now more important than ever. Our affiliated unions connect the Party to hundreds of thousands of working people, and give them more of a say in our politics.

With cynicism and distrust of political institutions at an all-time high, our structure presents us with a unique opportunity to bring working people closer to decision-making and to value their experiences.

Many of the members of affiliated unions reflect the types of citizens most shut out from political power. Their union membership secures power in their workplace, and their Labor connection should both better inform our policies and culture, and redress political inequality.

A party that works to increase the diversity of its members and supporters, recognising and seeking to overcome all barriers to participation.

While Victorian Labor has much to be proud of in terms of securing equal parliamentary representation of women, we must face the fact that we don’t reflect the diversity of our supporters in any respect.

This is a challenge we must rise to.

We must work to understand and then overcome the barriers, formal and informal, that have been working to deny culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians meaningful involvement.

This is about getting the structures right, but also about building the right culture. Saying, without equivocation, that Labor isn’t just the Party for multiculturalism but the Party of multicultural communities too.

These aren’t exhaustive, but we hope that they resonate and this contribution starts and shapes a debate in branches, affiliates and wherever people who care about Labor gather together. It’s about hope, not despair.

We have so much to be proud of in Victorian Labor. Shown not just by our history but through the example set each day by Daniel Andrews.

But we are holding ourselves back, and more importantly we are holding back those who depend on us being better, if we don’t return power in the Party to the True Believers.

Andrew Giles MP is the Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure. Facebook Twitter Website

Susie Byers is the Director of the Communications and Campaigns Unit at the CPSU and the President of Victorian Labor. Twitter


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